Thursday, November 11, 2021

Steel Town, Steel Town Gamin ! (Episode 7)

 I'm happy to share Nathan Powell's new episode of his great Hamilton gonzo web-series Steel Town Gaming and an introduction by him where he explains his process. I highly recommend it ! - D.D.


Hello to all fans of filmmaking, Toronto, and the online world at large!


It’s quite an honour to be featured on the Toronto Film Review blog. Back in the day, when I was an increasingly disillusioned film student in my final years of college, this place was an invaluable resource for many things, and particularly for its coverage of Matt Johnson and Nirvanna the Band the Show. I don’t mean to gloss over the work David has been doing to elevate obscure voices in the Toronto film scene (myself included!) or to shed light on this country’s most esoteric works of filmmaking, but David’s complete list of every single Matt Johnson project is one page I’m certain every fan of the show has seen, if not bookmarked. Just to inhabit space on this same blog is incredible.


To that end, inspiration can be a powerful thing. For those who don’t know the deal, Steel Town Gaming is a mockumentary comedy web-series about video games, nostalgia, and the city of Hamilton. It follows the strained relationship between two high school buds who reunite as adults to try and make a web show, and that hard-to-articulate loneliness of adulthood. The early episodes of Steel Town Gaming owe a great deal to Matt Johnson, but as the show has continued, I like to think it has become its own thing. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone, because it has taken us four yearsto get here. When this is all over, I’ll hopefully be a very different filmmaker than when I started.


Getting to imitate your heroes if a wonderful thing. But in breaking the story of this episode, I experienced the flip side of inspiration, which is the utter chaos of working in a medium so undefined, there’s almost no one to steal from. “Natalya Follows You” jumps back and forth between an online game and the IRL world, and finding the narrative balance between those spaces, as well as the overall tone of the story, was quite tricky. Going into this, I swear, I only knew of one other media product to attempt a similar thing, and that was the Warcraft episode of South Park. I was making up my own rules as I went. (Ironically there’s a low-budget Canadian film that jumps between an MMORPG and the IRL world, and Matt Johnson plays a bit part in that. It’s one of his few appearances which I have not seen.)


I greatly appreciate David giving me this space to share the episode, hopefully you enjoy watching it. Having mostly disappeared from society during the last two years, I found great joy in getting to emerge from the void with such a strange and experimental project that even some of my close friends didn’t know about. There are so many films you simply cannot make during a global pandemic (at least, not without money), and I was very, very lucky to have a script with so many scenes of just people sitting alone in rooms. If I didn’t have this episode to work on, I would have already gone full Jack Torrance by, like, May 2020.


All the best,

Nathan Powell